November 30, 2009

For Relaxing Times...Make It Commercial Time

The idea for my class today was to discuss media, commercials, and advertising techniques. To do so, I downloaded a few videos from YouTube to show in class, hoping to start a discussion. That worked moderately well, and that's not the point of this post.

The point of this post is to talk quickly about celebrities doing commercials in foreign countries. See, I remembered a tea commercial from my time in Germany about 10 years ago. This commercial was weird because it featured nothing but German, and at the end, Sean Connery suddenly appeared and said, "What a tea." Check it out; it's only 10 seconds of strangeness:

"What a tea"? Doesn't he mean "What the hell?" In any case, this is the commercial that led me and my friend Bobby to say "What a tea" for months on end.

That got me thinking, though, about celebrities doing ads in foreign countries, and I remembered the movie "Lost in Translation," where Bill Murray's character goes to Japan to do ads for Suntory Whiskey. Well, it turns out that Suntory Whiskey exists, and "western" celebrities shill for it:

And it's even freaking Sean Connery again! Obviously, this one would have been better if he'd said "Hwhat a whishkey" at the end of it but beggars --especially foreign beggars-- can't be choosers.

While I was out there on the internet, I also came across a few others worth sharing. The next two are for my folks, who I believe could technically fall into the category of "stalkers" when it comes to Harrison Ford fandom:

Sure, a bit weird, but this next one is even stranger:

He seems so happy! And sweaty! I certainly like Happy Harrison Ford, although I certainly realize that Frowny, Stern Harrison Ford is the one who sells movie tickets. Happy Harrison Ford is the one who sells Japanese beer. And I'm cool with that.

Finally, here's one that's just way out there. The guy or girl who posted it on YouTube wrote simply "Words fail to describe this". Truer words have never been spoken (or failed to be spoken, in this case, I suppose). Watch. Learn:


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November 25, 2009


Thanksgiving is upon us again, or at least it is in the U.S.

Not so much here in Costa Rica, but that's OK. It's still good to be thankful. Because of the holiday, I'm sure that basically every blogger in the U.S. is putting up a post about the things that he or she is thankful for. I am certainly thankful for many, many things like my family, my friends, my health, my life in general, and all the blessings I've been given. But the more I think about it, I'm actually thankful that Thanksgiving even exists.

While living in another country as an ex-pat, you have to sometimes defend your home country, and of course the U.S. is no exception to that rule of thumb. In fact, many people have their well-formed concepts about Americans, and despite the fact that they may never have visited the U.S., they're still happy to tell you what you and your compatriots are really like.

One such concept that you'll come across quite often is that America is a greedy, imperialistic nation that doesn't give a crap about the rest of the world... basically, that it's the enormous gorilla --be it 500 pounds or approximately 250 kilos-- that feels it can sit wherever it wants in the world. Another idea that I've come across, especially in Costa Rica, is that Americans don't care about their families. I would particularly dispute this point anyhow, as I think they're often confusing quality with quantity in terms of family size, but that's a point for another post. Finally, there's the idea that Americans are interested only in crass convenience, fast money, and everything artificial and gaudy.

Thanksgiving blows all these concepts out of the water.

Think about it. For most families, it's either the biggest or second-biggest holiday of the year. Almost everyone celebrates or recognizes it in some way, and unlike some holidays, it's even non-denominational; I've been invited to a Muslim friend's house for Thanksgiving, and they served turkey alongside Pakistani dishes.

It's also non-commercial, generally. I'm sure that some people spend tons of money on food --and I do certainly concede that point-- but the point is not about buying the biggest or newest gifts, or impressing your loved one with the most romantic gesture known to man, or waiting in lines in the snow to be the first to buy a rare shiny new chocolate-covered Tickle Me Grover doll for Junior. Instead, Thanksgiving is simply about getting together with your loved ones, spending time together, eating a delicious meal, and being thankful. Holy mackerel, can you believe we actually pulled this holiday off as a nation?! And it's so awesome!

Unfortunately, this holiday isn't celebrated in Costa Rica. My students who, by nature of being my students, are learning English from an educational center associated with the U.S.A., didn't actually know anything about Thanksgiving. That's too bad, but we're going to try to remedy that. At work tomorrow, we're going to have the students present about different aspects of Thanksgiving (since it's an English-learning school), as well as bring food to share. It may not turn out to be a roast turkey with all the trimmings, but it'll still hopefully reflect what I would consider the best and most traditionally and excellently American holiday.

And to everyone back in the States, I'm thankful that you're reading my blog.
Happy Thanksgiving!

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November 24, 2009

Happy Internet Time

This video below is like it was made for me. It's me and the internet performing a duet to express our love:

It's like I sprouted hair and it flourished into a mullet. And then I got together with my love and we shook out a dusty rug (which is a metaphor for going to crappy, smelly internet cafes filled with stupid kids).
And when the boys are chasing bubbles around 3:40 into the video, that's me chasing email messages and turns on Facebook Scrabble!

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I Live In The Future Now

Ever since we got the internet yesterday, I've been feeling like this:

Internet is awesome.

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November 23, 2009


Holy Crap!
We got internet in our house! In Berlin!
Must clean up drool and tears, and change underwear.
More soon!
Very soon!

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November 18, 2009

Rainy Season Close-Out Special, Volume 2: "Breaking The Mold"

Ah, mold.

I hate hate hate hate hate mold.

As you may know, I originally come from Colorado, and as you may also know, Colorado is a pretty dry place. There is little or no mold there, at least as far as I have seen. It’s the type of place where you can leave a slice of bread out in the evening and the next morning it’ll be dry and stale, perfect for making French toast.

If you tried that shit here, though, by the time you got to the kitchen in the morning, the bread would likely have developed enough mold to be considered a sentient being with its own volition, and the Bread Beast would be liable to challenge you to a duel to avenge all the French toast you ever made in your life.

Mold sucks.

Thankfully, the mold largely diminishes when the rainy season ends, but here it never seems to go away completely. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we found mold growing on the bottoms of our closet drawers, just a month after we’d had the closet put in. For me, the perfect description of the word, “bummer,” is when you open a drawer in the bedroom or kitchen and get that distinct musty smell, and you know that some shirt collar or oven mitt or wooden spoon must be covered in a thin layer of mold. It’s depressing, frankly.

In any case, for a while now, I’ve been keeping track of which of our objects have gotten mold while living in Costa Rica (and especially Berlín), so without further ado, I present to you this sad Hit Parade Of Our Household Objects That Have Gotten Mold:

(listed in ascending order based on the frustration and depression discovering them caused)

11th Place (Honorable Mention): Any Document That I’ve Had Here, even if kept in plastic folders or containers. This is a major drag, especially for legal and immigration documents. The ones that haven’t gotten moldy or musty have gotten rust stains from their staples or paperclips.

10th Place: A Sealed Bag of Linguini: I have no idea how this could have possibly gotten mold, as it was still sealed and way before its expiration date when we opened it, but this pasta defied logic and got mold anyhow. I would have put it higher, but with this, I was just able to throw it away and forget about it.

9th Place: My Car: This has happened with both of our cars. Our old car actually had mold in the little spaces between the badge that said “RAV-4.” Our new car just has a generally moldy smell inside, but you can roll down the windows and leave it in the sun for a day, and the smell tends to go away.

8th Place: My Shirt Collars: These pick up mold while sitting in the closet, which has led me to create a “clothes rotation program.” If I’ve not told about this program here, remind me, and I shall do so someday. This mold tends to happen more with woven than knit fabric. All the same, it’s annoying, but nothing washing in hot water can’t temporarily combat.

7th Place: The Plastic Buttons on my XBOX Control: The more I think about it, this should have been higher on the list, since I was storing these controllers in a sealed Ziplock bag. I have no idea how in the world these buttons could have gotten mold.

6th Place: My Electric Razor: In fact, the mold may be the reason it stopped working altogether.

5th Place: The Grain in the Doors of Our House: Even on the inside doors, the grain lines are starting to get a bit of white fuzz, even after they’ve been treated and stained and all that. And it happened even the one that sits in direct sunlight.

4th Place: A Brown Belt I Have: I’ve tried cleaning this with bleach, Lysol, soap, and zinc oxide, but every time I hang the belt on a rack in the garage, it starts to get mold after three or four days.

3rd Place: My Shoes: Shoes smell bad enough without having to additionally smell like mold. Usually it seems to be trapped somewhere within the fabric or soles, but occasionally like on my Doc Martens shoes, the mold will have the audacity to just grow on the outside, the bastard!

2nd Place: A Bookcase I Used to Have: We bought one of those DIY bookcases at a store in Palmares when we were living in our last house. Within a few weeks, there was mold on the outside of the shelves and even the vertical support. This was an exposed, vertical surface that was covered in a vinyl or plastic coating, and it still got mold. I also cleaned it with about 5 different solutions (and even a lot of profanity) but it was all to no avail. The mold came back on the shelves, both on the top, bottom, and sides of the bookcase, and started making the books smell worse. Even tears didn't seem to stop the onslaught of mold, which would reappear about three days after cleaning. Eventually I gave up and we just abandoned it when we moved.

1st Place: Me: This is the weirdest one. About a year and a half ago after a trip to the beach, I noticed that the skin on my chest was kind of spotty. It had some tan areas with little pale, white areas inside. Apparently, they were on my back, too. After consulting with a friend who is a doctor, it turned out that I myself was a host to mold (or possibly it was fungus, but when it gets to 1st Place, I don't much care one way or the other). I’ve been able to take a pill which seems to make it go away for a year or a bit less, but still, this is annoying and freakish, to say the least.

In any case, that’s about it for today. The sun’s coming out, so I’m going outside to enjoy it a bit (by lining up all our shoes in its warming, mold-killing rays).

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November 14, 2009

Some Lame Cat Pics To Tide Us All Over

It's been a busy week and I'm trying to spend less than a half hour at the internet café. Plus, Angela's birthday is tomorrow and I've got to get stuff prepared for that. So, today I've only got time to put up a few pictures of our adorable, loser cats:

Speaking of Angela, she took these two pictures. They're pretty great. It appears that once we cut off Cucho's balls, his mothering instinct kicked in, and now instead of antagonizing the little kitten, he's taken to looking after his new protégé Chubby (the name we chose for our new cat... "Puppy Tracks" was a close second, in honor of my brother Paul's proposed name for our childhood dog, Jenny... Paul was about 4 or 5 at the time, probably).

Sometimes the killer instincts kick in, though. This hilarous picture is less painful than it looks. Chubby was just meowing here.

Anyway, have a nice weekend!

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November 12, 2009

Rainy Season Close-Out Special: Krupnik!

Here in Costa Rica the rainy season --or as the marketing geniuses at the Costa Rican Tourism Institute call it, "The Green Season,"-- is winding down, and each day brings progressively more sun and less rain. It hasn't been a very bad rainy season, thank God, at least compared to last year. Last year there was a week where it didn't stop raining, and I even missed my alarm once because it was making such a racket on the tin roof.
In any case, I know that it's getting into winter time in the U.S., and I've been meaning to share a tasty soup recipe that my friend Martha Wawro shared with me. It's called "Krupnik," and although that looks like a Slovak swear word, it's actually a Polish-style barley soup. I first had the honor of enjoying this tasty soup at one of the Wawro's delicious annual Pierogi Sundays in December, and I begged Martha for the recipe.
I'll put up the step-by-step information with some pictures, followed by the actual recipe. It's quite simple and simply delicious, so I recommend you try it at once!

First, you take the barley and rinse it. I don't know if you're like me, but if you are, then you only have a vague concept of what barley actually IS. And even after having prepared this soup a few times, I'm still not entirely sure. I guess it's some tasty type of grain. To the end, though, Angela's family was convinced that it was just some type of smaller, whiter bean.

In any case, after rinsing the barley, put it in the beef stock and bring it to a boil.

Next, wash and chop the vegetables. I think the recipe calls for fewer vegetables, but I played it a bit fast and loose since I like soup veggies. And because I just don't give a damn about your so-called cooking "rules"!

Once the barley has soaked up most of the broth, add the butter and let it cook a bit.

Finally, you add the vegetables and the rest of the broth to the pan, and cook until the vegetables are tender and tasty.

The lovely Angela enjoying the delicious final product.

Thanks, Martha, for the super soup!

Here's the official recipe for those of you at home who want to play along:

Barley Soup – Krupnik

1 c. pearl barley
2 quarts meat stock
¼ c. butter or margarine, cut into pieces
2 carrots, diced
2 potatoes, diced
4 oz. canned mushrooms, sliced
1 stalk celery
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 and ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper

1) Combine barley with 1 cup of meat stock in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until all stock is absorbed. Add butter piece by piece, stirring.

2) Boil vegetables in remaining stock until crisp-tender. Then add barley, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cook until barley is tender.

Martha's Note: Pierogi Sunday requires much more pepper to taste.

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November 9, 2009

Debugging Man and Machine

For a period of about two months, my computer was having trouble with its anti-virus program. Apparently, the utility it used to update virus definitions got --wait for it-- a virus. As you may know, I hardly ever connect my computer to the internet anyhow, but it was still annoying. That dilemma, along with a new hare-brained scheme to charge for parking in Palmares, has resulted in me being a bit M.I.A. on the blogging scene of late. In the end, the virus problem got resolved after a couple weeks of back-and-forth emails to Customer Service. However, another potential problem remained.

When I was driving back from an in-service day in San Jose a few weeks ago, some of my coworkers were talking about traveling sicknesses, and the topic turned to "de-parasiting" pills. Evidently, many people here routinely take a pill every now and then to get rid of parasites. "What," they asked me, "You've never taken one of those pills before?" Well, I'd not. Evidently, my trip to Nicaragua a few years ago may have left me with more souvenirs that I had imagined. Plus, I'd been waking up with teeth and jaw-aches, and apparently grinding and clenching teeth is also a common result of parasites.

So, Angela and I bought some pills at the pharmacy and took them, crossing our fingers and hoping for luck. Next up, we have to take Chubby (our new grey cat) to the vet to get de-wormed also.

Ah, Costa Rica. It'll infect you with love. And other stuff.

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November 4, 2009


If you remember reading my blog around this time last year (probably not, so here's the link), I mentioned that November was --and indeed still is-- NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Last year I attempted to write a novel, but unfortunately it fizzled out sometime mid-month. But I was excited and motivated to start anew this year and get the bastard churned out once and for all.

Until I realized that I couldn't write a novel.

In fact, around October 31st, it occurred to me that I actually quite suck at writing fiction in general. I had never really considered my writing, or most writing, for that matter, in such broad strokes as "fiction" and "non-ficiton," but the more I thought about it, what I write on this blog and anywhere else is basically non-fiction. Actually, the last "fiction" thing I wrote was probably in some "creative writing" class at Timnath Elementary School, about two decades ago. If I'm not mistaken, it would have probably involved a talking dog and the DeLorean from Back to the Future.

But I digress. The main point is that I write non-fiction. Moreover, I actually strive to write essays. When I was a high school student, I probably would have been amazed to know that I'd turn into such a nerdhole who enjoys writing essays about current topics in the world, but there you have it. And some of my favorite authors --David Sedaris, Dave Barry, David Rakoff, and what the hell why are all of these guys named Dave, now that I think about it-- are also non-fiction essayists. I guess that propensity towards non-fiction explains why my novels were turning out to be such shit. Once I came to that realization, I concluded that I'd in fact not write a novel. I just couldn't face the self-recriminations and guilt that I would feel if I set out to do something so grand, only to fail... or worse yet, to succeed and to actually complete a novel, although likely a novel that I feared even I myself would find tacky.

So, I'm gonna keep writing non-fiction. I was actually going to continue my Blogtoberfest idea I started last year, but unfortunately I remembered that idea around October 17th, far too late to pick up the Blogtoberfest celebrations in drunken earnest. But I'll see what I can do about making this November a so-called "Novemblog." As usual, I've got quite a few blog ideas on little sticky notes and spiral notebooks, so I'll try to flesh those out in more detail this month.

Until then, thanks for reading, and good luck to all of this month's novelists!

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